Patriots Exec Eliot Wolf Name-Drops 2 Key Free Agents

Patriots Exec Eliot Wolf Name-Drops 2 Key Free Agents

The New England Patriots find themselves at a crucial juncture as they approach the 2024 NFL offseason, looking to rebound from a tumultuous 4-13 season.

Kyle Dugger

With a considerable number of pending free agents, including 22 players set to hit the open market in mid-March, along with the No. 3 overall pick in April’s NFL draft, the Patriots face the most crucial offseason in quite some time.

Among the group of pending free agents, two players, safety Kyle Dugger and offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, have been tabbed as vital, according to Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf.

Eliot Wolf on pending free agents Mike Onwenu and Kyle Dugger: “All the options are on the table. We definitely want to keep Mike and Kyle.”

“We definitely want to keep Mike and Kyle. And, you know, we’re hopeful to continue to work with Kyle’s agent and Mike to make that happen,” Wolf told a room full of reporters at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine on February 27.

A More Assertive Approach to Free Agency in New England

Both Dugger and Onwenu are entering the final weeks of their rookie contracts, having been drafted from Lenoir-Rhyne and Michigan in the 2020 NFL draft, respectively. As the Patriots undergo a period of transition, these two players represent key building blocks for the organization’s future.

Despite the team’s reputation for a cautious approach to roster management, Wolf has hinted at a more assertive stance as they approach the start of the new league year on March 13. With the potential of entering free agency with a substantial $86.9 million in salary cap space, the Patriots have the flexibility to be aggressive in their pursuit of talent to bolster the team.

The deadline to apply the franchise tag remains open until March 5, offering teams the opportunity to secure key players on one-year deals. For safeties like Dugger, the franchise tag carries a value of $17.123 million, while offensive linemen like Onwenu command a tag worth $20.9 million, based on the NFL’s official salary cap of $255.4 million.

These figures surpass market projections for both players, underscoring the Patriots’ financial flexibility as they navigate the offseason. Despite the higher-than-anticipated costs associated with utilizing the franchise tag, the Patriots’ substantial cap space positions them favorably to retain key contributors like Dugger and Onwenu.

With the NFL announcing a record $255.4 million salary cap, franchise and transition tag numbers are also locked in. From a memo to clubs today:

Mike Onwenu Is a Key Piece on the Offensive Line

Onwenu, on the other hand, has proven himself as a versatile and dependable presence along the offensive line. Despite being drafted in the sixth round, he has started 56 of 65 games, demonstrating his ability to excel at multiple positions, including guard and tackle.

Despite both players changing agents this offseason, their contractual status remains a focal point for the Patriots’ front office.

Wolf went on to explain what it will be like negotiating with Onwenu, now that he has fired his agents and is currently without representation.

“Mike’s a core player for us. It’s no secret we want to try to keep Mike, and it’ll be just a bit of a wrinkle dealing with him. Mike’s really smart, and he’s introspective, and he’s thoughtful. And he knows what he wants, which is always good when you’re dealing with a player. He’s certainly someone that we view as a cornerstone for us,” Wolf stated.

Patriots Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf: “Mike [Onwenu’s] a core player for us. It’s no secret … we definitely want to keep Mike and Kyle [Dugger]” 👀

Suring Up the Patriots’ Secondary

Dugger, 27, has emerged as a defensive stalwart for the Patriots since being drafted in the second round of the 2020 class.

With 52 starts in 61 appearances, he has amassed impressive statistics, including 343 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and nine interceptions. In the 2023 season, Dugger played a team-high 1,115 defensive snaps, showcasing his versatility and impact on the field.

Dugger’s impact on the field for New England was palpable throughout the 2023 season, as he showcased his versatility and playmaking ability in various aspects on the defensive side of the ball. Starting in all 17 games, Dugger consistently contributed to the team’s defensive efforts, accumulating impressive statistics along the way.

His performance included 109 tackles, ranking him third on the team, along with 6 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

As the Patriots navigate the offseason, their approach to securing key players like Dugger and Onwenu will be critical in shaping the team’s future success. Whether they pursue a franchise quarterback in the draft, sign a veteran, or maintain the status quo, the contributions of players like Onwenu will be instrumental in the team’s quest for success.

With important dates such as the legal tampering window and the start of free agency fast approaching, the Patriots must act decisively to solidify their roster for the upcoming season.

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